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Cash-for-work in urban setting in Guinea

By Damien Helleputte and Julien Jacob

Damien Helleputte is technical coordinator of the Accion Contra el Hambre mission in Guinea since 2008.

Julien Jacob is currently working as senior Food Security and Livelihoods advisor for Accion Contra el Hambre in Spain. He has been working within the organisation in Asia and with other NGOs in Africa managing emergency food security and rural development projects.

Accion Contra el Hambre (ACF-E) is implementing a project to support low-income populations in urban areas of Guinea, funded by the European Union. The programme began in August 2009 and is due to end in November 2011. One of the proposed activities is the organisation of cash for work (CFW) with a focus on sanitation and more specifically, solid waste collection. Unhygienic sanitation practices are a major issue for Guinean towns, hence the particular orientation of this project. The Public Service for Waste Transfer estimates that only 39% of waste in Conakry is transferred to the landfill. This situation is causing significant environmental problems (such as illegal dumping, incineration, uncontrolled dumping of waste into the sea) and health problems (for example, risk of cholera and typhoid fever).

The project's specific objective is to reduce food and economic vulnerabilities of the poorest community groups of Conakry. Matoto town is one of the urban districts selected for the intervention on the basis that it has a high population density and accounts for roughly a third of the inhabitants of the capital city of Conakry. Implementation of a cash transfer programme is justified by the way the target population obtains food in Matoto, where purchase is the main source of food for 94.8% of households. Only 1.3% of the population within this area are farmers. Markets are well supplied and functional and lack of financial resources is why the most vulnerable populations have difficulty accessing food. Furthermore, the cash transfer programme allows the beneficiaries to identify and fulfil their basic needs while at the same time preserving their dignity.

CFW activities are organised in cycles of two to three months, at time periods subject to price inflation risk (school year, end-of-year festivities, Ramadan, lean season). ACF-E expects monthly household income to increase by 15% and that the food consumption of beneficiaries will be improved.

Cash for work programme in action


Two rounds of CFW have been held since the beginning of the intervention. The first round targeted 554 beneficiaries (288 men, 266 women) spread across five districts of the town. Between January 18, 2010 and March 11, 2010, each beneficiary spent one day a week on waste collection, a total of eight days of work per person over the duration of the first cycle. The beneficiaries were paid monthly and received 20,000 Guinean francs (about 2.50 EUR) per working day. A total of 78,360,000 Guinean francs (about 10,450 EUR) have been distributed to beneficiaries. This amount is the equivalent of 3,918 person-days of work.

The second cycle of activity targeted 1,026 beneficiaries (421 men and 605 women) spread across seven districts. Between May 3, 2010 and July 19, 2010, each beneficiary dedicated one day per week for the waste collection activity, amounting to a total of 10-13 working days for the duration of the second cycle. The beneficiaries were paid monthly and received 23,000 Guinean francs (about 3 EUR) per day. In total, 222,985,000 Guinean francs (about 30,000 EUR) were distributed to beneficiaries. This amount is the equivalent of 9,695 person-days of work.

The daily CFW rate paid to beneficiaries was increased between CFW cycles 1 and 2. This measure was taken to maintain the purchasing power of beneficiaries that was reduced as a result of inflation in basic commodities prices. The income per person received for each cycle would allow for the purchase of 4.5 kg of local rice. However, there is a limit to the daily wage that can be paid as this should not be allowed to increase to the point of destabilising local labour markets and/or attracting less vulnerable households.

Target beneficiaries were households living below the poverty line. Priority was given to women and young heads of households, as well as to households with malnourished children identified through a nutritional care programme in health centres in the same district.


The impact of the programme on food consumption and income of vulnerable households has been measured during each CFW cycle.


While the monitoring of the first cycle did not demonstrate any improvement in the total monthly income of beneficiaries, the second cycle showed an increase of 14% (see Figure 1). The average number of sources of monthly income by the beneficiaries actually decreased (but not significantly) after the first cycle of activity (2.00 before, 1.89 after). This may simply reflect the difficulty of assessing income sources, as it was hard to ask questions about income without having first established a measure of trust between the interviewee and the interviewer.

Between the first and second cycles, the criteria for identifying beneficiaries were strengthened, principally in relation to the economic vulnerability of households. Surveys conducted before the second cycle of activity led to the removal from the list of beneficiary households with the highest incomes. This is reflected in the findings that the average monthly income for beneficiaries before the first cycle of activity was 611,000 Guinean francs (65 EUR) but decreased to 553,000 (58 EUR) before the second cycle.

Food consumption

Monitoring data showed that there was a greater impact of the cash transfer on the food consumption of beneficiaries than on their income. The two main indicators used to measure this impact were the food consumption score (FCS) and frequency of food consumption (number of meals consumed per day).

The FCS divides food into seven groups (grains, legumes, vegetables, etc). A weighting (e.g. 0.5 for the group of sugars, up to 4 for the group of proteins) is then applied to each food group. The weighting for each group is multiplied by the number of days of consumption (over seven days) for each food group and the score for each group is added up. Scoring values computed for each method are shown on a scale ranging from 0 to 112. Thresholds of 24.5 and 38.5 were used to determine the three classes of food consumption: poor, borderline and acceptable.

During both cycles, the FCS increased after payment to the beneficiaries. During the second cycle, the average FCS was 44.07 before and 50.75 after cash transfer. The improvement in the FCS is more significant when the threshold scores of food consumption are compared. The proportion of beneficiaries with poor or borderline food consumption dropped from 49% to 24% during the second intervention cycle (see Figure 2). The quality of beneficiary diets also improved. When we look at the food groups included in the FCS, we observe an increase in the consumption of proteins and dairy products. Note also that a greater proportion of households in the second round had a poor or borderline FCS prior to the cash transfer as compared to the first cycle. This could be attributed to improved targeting to the most vulnerable households as well as the existence of higher commodity prices than in the first cycle.

The CFW has also impacted on the frequency of food consumption by beneficiary, although this is less pronounced than in the FCS (See Figure 3). Over the past two cycles, the number of beneficiaries who consumed one meal decreased, with a greater proportion of household consuming two or three meals.

Beneficiaries use the money to meet their basic needs with the priority given to food (83% of the beneficiaries in the second cycle used some or all of the money for food) (see Figure 4). The amount distributed does not allow them to invest sufficiently in productive assets; only 19% of beneficiaries invested in productive assets in the second cycle.

The use of coping strategies was also investigated and several coping mechanisms were monitored (see Figure 5). These included eating less preferred foods (the mechanism used by 80% of the beneficiaries), reducing the amount of food per meal, going into debt or borrowing for food. The use of coping strategies to address food insufficiency significantly decreased after the transfer of money.


A key lesson from this impact study is that in order to mount an efficient cash transfer programme, it is necessary to have precise information on the socio-economic status of beneficiaries beforehand so that the amount of cash transferred meets their needs. It should be possible to adjust the CFW daily wage at any time depending on the context, although this requires regular monitoring of the prices of basic commodities on the markets. This is particularly true in urban areas where the primary source of food for the population is purchase. Both surveys showed that the impact of the cash transfer is most easily measured by indicators related to food consumption or coping mechanisms rather than through income related indicators.

Despite the constraints faced in implementing the CFW programme, ACF-E has managed to reduce the food insecurity and economic vulnerabilities of the poorest households in Conakry. The effect on household food security, however, is only temporary. Facing chronic inflation of basic commodities, additional measures should be taken to sustain the food security improvements achieved. With over half of beneficiaries never having attended school, vegetable gardening or small-scale income-generating activities would be the most appropriate short-term support that could be offered given the existing capacity of beneficiaries.

For more information, contact Julien Jacob, email:

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Reference this page

Damien Helleputte and Julien Jacob (). Cash-for-work in urban setting in Guinea. Field Exchange 41, August 2011. p26.



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